La Calanderia is a small family run coffee and cocoa farm. Getting to the farm is an experience in itself. You can hike all the way up but on our last full day in Minca, we decided to take a mototaxi. The mototaxi from our hostel to La Calanderia cost 30,000 pesos ($9 USD) per person round trip. The ride is all uphill, beautiful, and somewhat bumpy. Hang on tight to the driver. If you are in the mood, it’s definitely a doable hike but it’ll take some time. Mainly because you’ll be stopping a lot to enjoy the views.
The mototaxi takes you to the entrance of the farm. From the entrance, there’s still a 10-15 minute uphill hike to get to the start of the tour. The one hour long cacao tour costs 25,000 pesos ($7.50 USD) per person. The views from top of the farm are absolutely gorgeous. You have a 360 degree view of the Sierra Nevada mountains all around, hundreds of birds and a very peaceful atmosphere. Cacao only grows around the equator so there are very few places where the plant can survive.
La Calanderia produces 1 ton of cocoa seeds per year and they don’t export any of it. They sell 100% of their cacao products locally. The guide goes over the whole process from planting to harvesting to turning it into cocoa products. The tour is very involved and it starts in front of a cacao tree on the top of a mountain. Then we get to eat the fruit, which tastes kind of like custard apple. The cacao bean is surrounded by the pulp.
Cacao produces fruit all year long. Birds and critters love the cacao fruit pulp so to distract them from cacao, the farm plants coffee, papaya, mango, banana and other plants near by. The beans are fermented for almost a week before being roasted. We all roasted the beans together for about 5 minutes. After the roasting process, the skin comes off very easily. The bean is now an edible cacao nib. It tasted much more bitter than I expected.
Once these roasted beans are ground, the natural fat in them is released, turning it into a paste. Once we had the paste, the guide turned it into hot chocolate with 100% cacao. The hot chocolate was also very rich and bitter. Cacao is also used to make a face mask which we got to try. The face mask is made from cacao, coffee, honey and rose water. I only had the face mask on for 10 minutes but my skin felt very refreshed and soft. I wish I had purchased the mask.
La Candelaria offers a fun, exciting, and much more involved coffee and cacao tours but, the quality of coffee bean at La Victoria was much better. The tours at La Candelaria are more involved which make them more fun. La Candelaria is also a great place for bird watching. They usually have a toucan on property but when we visited, it had flown away. The guide said the toucan should return in a few day. After the tour, we hiked back down the mountain and took the mototaxi back to town center.
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